Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our “2000 AD” weekly review column! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at Rebellion/2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment. Let’s get right to it!
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld, Part 11
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln To quote Dune, “Fear is the mindkiller, Fear is the little death…” It pervades this final chapter of “Cursed,” and fear personified makes a pretty effective villain. Through the Dark Judge by that name, Kek-W delves into the bruised and broken psyche of several characters this week with haunting visuals from the hand of Dave Kendall. His panels exploring the inner worlds of Jess and Patti are both brief and effectively chilling. When your enemy can tap right into the things that you deeply fear the most, say the death of everyone around you or succumbing to your addictions and failings you can end up defeating yourself.
Psiren continues to ply her sharp tongue against her allies both old and new while they escort Fairfax away. Casey proves his worth and adds his own bit of creepy snark to the scenes, his new self only cosmetically changed from when he was alive. Fairfax’s surrender last week to save Jess from the witch is something I somehow didn’t think through and I suspect neither did he as events go horribly awry.
Dave Kendall and Kek-W have taken us across the wasteland revealing more tidbits of the past of Deadworld and possibly its last defenders. They set the scene for the prophesied Judge Child who may at least try to stop the inevitable. They showed her strong will and compassion through her caring for the ill Fairfax, sharing with the mutant family and Patti. The established a solid mythology and made me care and worry about characters I know may ultimately be doomed.
THIS WEEK IN 2000 AD
Judge Dredd: Hoverods, Part 1
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Brendan McCarthy (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Matiasevich: When the scion of one of Mega-City One’s richest families goes missing, favors are called in to get Judge Dredd on the case to find him. But when it looks like Junior’s abduction seems less than nefarious and more likely joyriding, will the Top Cop still be thrilled to track the wayward youth into The Cursed Earth and find him before he and his hot-rodder buddies become the next meal for a band of mutant cannibals?
Not every strip has to reinvent the wheel (or the hover-tech, I guess, in this case) but it’s usually pretty obvious why a certain strip got the green light from Tharg & Matt Smith. I can sum up the reason for ‘Hoverods’ in two words: Brendan McCarthy. When I’ve talked about the work of recent artists John McCrea and Nick Dyer, I’ve mentioned how they evoke the feel of art droids past (like Cam Kennedy). With McCarthy, he evokes an era of Progs gone by because he WAS one of those art droids; there’s no retro nostalgia-art-trip for him in this work. His main chunk of work for “2000 AD” was in the late 80’s, but the man also had his hallucinogenic fingerprints and design eye in other works of that period: Grant Morrison’s ‘Zenith’ & ‘Doom Patrol’ and Peter Milligan’s ‘Shade, The Changing Man’. The whole ‘superhero wearing leather jacket over skintight spandex’ vibe? That was McCarthy’s as much as anyone else’s, even if he didn’t end up drawing the actual comics those choices appeared in.
And in case you were thinking a little along the lines of “Ok, but what has he done for us lately?”, he also co-wrote and designed a little independent road trip film called Mad Max: Fury Road. So, you know, not much, right?
When we mention artists having certain styles that identify their works like fingerprints, Brendan McCarthy can always be Exhibit A in that discussion. The man’s color choices and fearlessness with making loud, bold moves means you can not only pick out his work from others at arm’s length . . . you can do it across the room! And I’ll probably talk more about this next week, but one of the strengths of both “2000 AD” and the Dredd-verse is that they can comfortably handle stories and styles from creators with completely contradictory styles. Brendan McCarthy’s work in ‘Hoverods’ can sit right next to Greg Staples’ ‘Dark Justice’ or Henry Flint’s ‘Titan’ with no excuses. All manner of art Thrills is welcome in Tharg’s Progs!Continued below
Defoe: Diehards, Part 8
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Colin MacNeil (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Ryan Perry: This is not the type of story that should tackle subjects such as faith in God or the societal roles of men and women, however, this is done anyways and it is done quite poorly. The look at faith and the examination of its effect on the characters is too one-note, Pat Mills presumes we can draw the whole of a character’s experiences with faith from four panels without any set up or pay off as to what is happening. We do start to get back story on our main character here but it is too little too late and too cliche. Then in the present day we see a child take down these monsters that our supposed action-hero main character couldn’t. It makes him seem genuinely dull; if only he was the dullest part of this issue. The latter half of the issue has a monologue written over it that is hard to read. It does not apply to the situation, and where it’s supposed to come off as poetic or intellectual it’s simply annoying.
There isn’t a lot to say here except that the art is definitely the better half of this issue. It’s consistent and fairly engrossing. Colin MacNeil is still great at drawing creepy Reeks. He also appropriately differentiates his flashbacks and modern day scenes with a shading difference. The character’s expressions do tend to get a little exaggerated and cartoony at times but with the script he was working with that’s understandable. The art even appropriately sets up the mystery of who is causing all this chaos whereas the story didn’t actually make me wonder. The design work MacNeil does on the mask at the end of the issue is good as well. I’m not certain it’s completely period accurate but it does generate a feel and tone to an extend that only the reeks really compete with.
Brink: Skeleton Life, Part 11
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), INJ Culbard (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Alice W. Castle: Things are finally beginning to heat up for “Brink: Skeleton Life” after the revelations of last week and, thankfully, the story doesn’t lose momentum as it swings back to investigative mode. This chapter is primarily concerned with bringing Fil, who was introduced in the second chapter and then disappeared from the story, as Kurtis investigates how undocumented laborers could be transferred onto a new work site with no one noticing in space.
This is chapter that really brings into focus the fact Abnett’s writing gives this story a sort of timeless quality to it. In essence, this is a story that could be anywhere, any time; it is the story of a folly that runs over schedule and over budget and reveals a darker side to the corporate money backing the project and how capitalism breeds a feeling of dehumanisation towards the poor in people who have power. This is a story that could be set now, against the backdrop of the United States’s border with Mexico or in the 18th Century during the Atlantic Slave Trade. It’s showing itself as the kind of story that has something universal to say, with a backdrop that brings a specific flavour to the characters.
I feel like I haven’t mentioned INJ Culbard’s art in a few chapters and I feel like that has something to do with the fact that it gets boring to repeat how fantastic it is. It’s astonishing how captivating he can make five pages of a conversation, from 12 panel grids to stacking horizontal panels in one page to the way he focuses on blocking and body language in conversations by using silhouettes juxtaposed between closeups and how, in the final page, he grabs your attention with a stark change of the bleed colour from black to a bright neon pink as Kurtis confronts Mariam Junot.
Despite some ups and downs, “Brink: Skeleton Life: continues to delight each week.
Scarlet Traces: Cold War – Book Two, Part 11
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: After a tough 2 weeks, “Scarlet Traces” is finally back on sure footing with a coherent, linear eleventh chapter. We finally see Icarus, Ahron and the Earth forces interact, as Icarus firmly tries to push them on the path to peace. It’s an interesting characterization compared to the roguish Icarus we’ve seen in the past and does wonders for his character development. Even the fact that the Earth general refers to Ahron as his ‘Martian bumboy’, regardless of how insensitive the comment is, does a lot to show how these characters have changed.
D’Israeli is great at conveying simple emotions to huge effect, and such is the case here. The tone here is almost an appropriated Vietnam War era 60s, as D’Israeli tosses Ahron in a loose toga putting himself in front of a gun on the second page to prove a point. There’s a lot of powerful sci-fi imagery in the second half of this chapter, with Icarus noticing the sun has been weaponized. The squiggles and lifework that are on the sun are Jack Kirby like and evocative of that powerful celestial imagery.
It’s good to see “Scarlet Traces” back in good stead, with Edginton pushing great character development and D’Isreali firing on all his pulp sci-fi cylinders. Let’s hope they can keep momentum for the chapters to come.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 2033 is on sale this week and available from:
- The 2000 AD Newsstand app for iPad and iPhone,
- The 2000 AD app for Android devices,
- 2000ADonline.com in print or DRM-free PDF and CBZ formats, and
- Finer comic shops everywhere
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”